Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018
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Jail levy campaign plays up Solution Center, but jail is the point

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    A view of the intake area at the Lucas County Jail in Toledo.

    The Blade/Katie Rausch
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I’ve heard of sugarcoating the painful truth, but the sell job for the levy to build a new Lucas County jail takes the cake.

Issue 10 on the ballot Tuesday would raise money to build a jail.

You might not clearly understand that from the Issue 10 campaign’s advertising.

The oversized postcard that arrived in the mail from Citizens for a Safe Lucas County says “Vote for Issue 10 — A Better Way.”

The intent of the advertising appears aimed at downplaying the construction of a jail and playing up the change for the better in how incarceration and criminal justice will be handled in Lucas County.

The levy would add a 1.37-mill levy to finance a bond issue for the next 37 years. The funds raised by this levy would be up to $185 million, enough to build a new jail and a “Solution Center.”

Here is the lead bullet point:

“Issue 10 builds a Solution Center, providing less expensive treatment for people with addiction issues instead of costly jail time.”

What is the Solution Center, you ask? Sounds ominous.

In the old days, they called it a drunk tank.

The modern version is not just a place to sleep it off. Done right, it would be a safe, properly staffed facility — not necessarily located near the jail — where some offenders would avoid getting booked into jail and could begin getting treatment. A “deflection” from incarceration.

Examples of who might go to the Solution Center instead of being booked into the jail could be someone who breaks into a shed to get out of the rain, or who is booked for disorderly conduct for a neighborhood disturbance.

In the second bullet point, the postcard gets around to mentioning the jail:

“For those who need to be in jail, the taxpayers will also save money through a more efficient, better designed building.”

Final bullet point:

“And Issue 10 expires when the bonds are paid — a cost of $4 per month for the owner of a $100,000 home.” That would be in 2056.

The campaign to pass Issue 10 has been a sleeper, but it seems to have awakened this week. The mailer was one of four that the campaign committee, Citizens for a Safe Lucas County, is sending. Television ads for Issue 10 should be appearing today.

The discussing about replacing or renovating the jail has been in active mode since about 2012, when the county had a study done by the firm CRS Inc. of Gettysburg, Pa. That study can be found at www.correction.org.

The present jail is a grim place. Clean, secure, but with a lot of gray paint, steel bars, and concrete.

Inmates live in pods that are enclosed within bars and concrete walls. Inside each pod are about half a dozen cells where the inmates sleep. In the common areas of the pods is a television, a heavy duty picnic table, and some cots. Guards check each half hour on these pods, of which there are five or six on each of the jail’s five living floors, and they have cameras in the pods.

The jail that sits on Spielbusch Avenue said to have been designed based on hotel layouts, but it’s not a hotel. Where the hotel concierge would sit is where the correctional officers monitor the pods by video monitor. Minimum staffing requires four officers per floor.

The new jail would be on one or one and a half floors. It would have large day rooms that would be supervised at all times by a correctional officer, a process known as “direct supervision.”

The commissioners have already bought the 24 acres in North Toledo, across from the former Raceway Park, where they want to build the jail.

The only organized opposition to the jail - Keep the Jail Downtown - is focused more on this site than on opposition to the levy, though it now says “Vote NO on Issue 10.”

The levy is not restricted to the Detroit Avenue site, so it could still be used to build a jail downtown.

The campaign to pass Issue 10 has raised nearly $200,000. County Commission President Pete Gerken said he has visited 27 churches to encourage passage of Issue 10. There have also been a few news conferences at which various unions and organizations and community leaders have declared their support.

Keeping the language in the advertising focused on a “Solution Center,” rather than a jail, and pacing the ad campaign to peak less than a week before the election could be aimed at keeping the anti-Issue 10 campaign off-guard.

Passing a levy to build a new jail is hard. Building a solution center is an easier sell.

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